The city of Madrid, Spain, has almost 3.1 million inhabitants while the metropolitan area has about 6.5 million spread across 233.3 square miles. While evidence suggests that people lived in the area since prehistoric times, the first written documentation of the city was written during the eighth century. Today, the city is a major hub for art lovers, foodies and culture addicts along with having many interesting places to party.
#1 Gran Vía
Considered one of the foremost places in the world to see 20th-century architecture, the Gran Via Madrid is a shopping destination well worth visiting. This area has had a booming economy for a long time with many wonderful places to shop, see movies and people watch. Until very recently, the Plaza Callao was one of the cinematic hubs of all of Europe. Many are gone now replaced by shopping centers. Plaza de España is also located along the Gran Via with its Art Nouveau House of Gallardo and its impressive skyscrapers.
#2 Retiro Park
Originally established in 1505, the Retiro Park in Madrid is home to an assortment of fantastic activities. Young and old alike love to exercise in this 350-acre park. Renting a rowboat here is a great way to reconnect with nature on a hot summer day. Teens and young adults often head to the park to rollerblade while young children adore playing on the playgrounds. The bandstand is home to free concerts on Sundays from May to October while young lovers often curl up to take a horse-drawn carriage ride. In many ways, Retiro Park reflects the cultural interests of this city with its free puppet shows, street entertainers and fortune tellers.
#3 La Latina Neighborhood
While La Latina in the central part of the city is a great place to dine and party all year long, it is hard to beat in the summertime when the activity level picks up at the beautifully landscaped rooftop bars and restaurants. From Fiestas de San Isidro paying tribute to the patron saint of the city in May to La Paloma with its brightly-colored dancing competitions in August, this area of the city is often visited by locals and tourists alike. Regardless of the time of year, locals often gather here on Sundays for delicious tapas and beer along with lively conversation. Just south of La Latina, is the El Rastro Market on Sundays: here the main street is filled with many clothing vendors, but visitors willing to get off the beaten path will find all sorts of treasure offered by vendors on the side streets.
#4 Prado Museum
Art aficionados visiting Madrid see sights will want to run to the Prado Museum as fast as their legs can carry them to see one of the finest collections of European art in the world. Just a few of the featured artists at this museum that originally opened in 1817. Raphael, Titian, El Greco and Rembrandt are just a few of the artists included in this museum’s collection that numbers over 8,000 paintings and many other works of art.
#5 Royal Palace of Madrid
The most important Baroque palace in Spain, the Royal Palace contains 3,418 rooms, and it is the largest palace in Europe by floor area. The main facade of this palace, that has not been the permanent home of royalty since 1931, faces Plaza de la Armeria. Make sure to see the changing of the guard at this palace on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
#6 Reina Sofia Museum
Named for Queen Sofia, the Reina Sofia Museum opened on September 10, 1992, and it is the official museum for 20-century art in Spain. Visitors are often moved by the black and gray Guernica painted by Pablo Picasso who created the work after the bombing of the city by the same name in Northern Spain on April 26, 1937. Visitors can also see works by Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Man Ray and many other Spanish artists. This building originally opened in 1805 as a hospital, and it served in that role until 1969.
#7 Puerta del Sol
In many ways, the very busy Puerta del Sol is the crossroads of all of Spain because its KM0 marks the beginning of the nation’s road numbering system. While the whole city gets involved, Puerta del Sol is the place where Christmas is widely celebrated with delicious goodies and the eating of lucky grapes, a Spanish tradition to celebrate the new year at midnight.
People living in Madrid are often referred to as “Gatos”, meaning cats. You will certainly not be able to sleep for hours like a cat when going to Madrid because there are so many wonderful things to do and places to experience.